Making an Effort

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also. – Igor Stravinsky

5 September – HK Philharmonic Season Opening: Tan Dun’s Nu Shu

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Orchestra: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor: Tan Dun

Metal Percussion: Zhang Xinru

Violin: Zeyu Victor Li

Harp: Elizabeth Hainen

Venue: Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Tan Dun  – Symphonic Poem on Three Notes

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor, op.64

Tan Dun – Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women (with images projected)

When I think of Tan Dun, I think of his music from the award winning ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and the Beijing Olympics. So already, I was looking forward to seeing this composer conduct his own works.

As I walked into the concert hall, the stage was set with metal percussion instruments arranged at the front of the stage. Zhang Xinru walked on with Tan Dun and took her initial bow amongst the instruments. Although she was partly hidden from view, Zhang could easily be seen transferring from instrument to instrument. This piece of music was written for Placido Domingo for his 70th birthday concert. The music is based on three notes (A, B and C) known as ‘la-si-do’ which sounds like ‘Placido’. The orchestral players played the music as usual, but also added in foot stamping and chanting of ‘la-si-do’. It is an unusual piece, but one that is totally captivating to hear and see performed live.

Spotify – Tan Dun Symphonic Poem on Three Notes – Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

The Mendelssohn violin concerto was performed well by 19 year old Victor Li. His encores were Paganini’s Caprice no. 1 and Bach’s Violin Sonata no. 3 in C major, BWV 1005. The Paganini displayed his technical ability with his bow moving repeatedly . The Bach, in contrast was slower and allowed the sensitivity of the piece to come through.

After the interval, Tan Dun’s with microfilm was performed. There were three screens that turned on one at a time, sometimes showing the same film, at other times showing different parts of the same film. Listening to the women’s singing, which to my ears sounds strange, and not altogether pleasant, I was always amazed at how Tan Dun is capable to hear this music and create a musical backdrop to it. There were definitely elements that sounded like the music could be from a movie soundtrack, especially in the movement where the girl was in the boat on water sounded like a part of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. The music has an organic sound to it with water being used by the percussion section and the instruments at times sounding like a soft breeze.

Tan Dun on his 13 microfilms with HK Phil’s live music

Elizabeth Hainen talking about Nu Shu

This concert was really one that displayed Tan Dun’s creativity and showed how as a contemporary composer, his music is very accessible.

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One thought on “5 September – HK Philharmonic Season Opening: Tan Dun’s Nu Shu

  1. Pingback: 1st March – Rufus Wainwright ‘Prima Donna’ | Making an Effort

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